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From AP Photo

San Diego Padres: Probably Grasping at Straws

The San Diego Padres are in a wicked second-half tailspin that has them currently out of the playoffs. The team many picked to win the World Series before the season started has been mired by injuries and underperforming players, specifically the most expensive ones. What did the front office and manager Jayce Tingler do to remedy this situation? They…fired the pitching coach with just over a month to go.

That sounds pretty desperate to me.

Not All His Fault

Larry Rothschild is surely not entirely to blame for the Padres’ slide. Mike Clevinger didn’t pitch an inning for them this season. Dinelson Lamet has been on and off the IL all year, limiting him to 34.1 innings. Yu Darvish has been on the shelf a bit. So has Chris Paddack. So has Blake Snell. Those are five key arms who have missed time in 2021 due to various injuries; no team is deep enough to replace that kind of talent.

Availability has certainly been a problem for the Padres, and it may be catching up to them in the second half. That’s not the pitching coach’s fault. What might have fallen on Rothschild, though, is pitchers underperforming when they are healthy.

Something’s Not Clicking

It’s too big of a coincidence for Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Chris Paddack to all be having their worst seasons as big leaguers, or close to it. A Major League pitching coach isn’t really teaching at that level; they’re Major Leaguers for a reason. Apart from minor adjustments here and there, the main job of the pitching coach is to come up with a plan of attack for opposing hitters and to make sure his guys are prepared physically and mentally for the challenge. The fact that these three guys have all been markedly underperforming speaks volumes.

Something isn’t working between Rothschild and the pitching staff, at least as it relates to starters (the bullpen has been solid).

Funny Timing

Though it makes sense that Rothschild would be out of the job, the timing is curious. Teams rarely make these types of changes this late in the season, particularly in the middle of a playoff race. It smells like desperation to me.

The San Diego Padres are a very expensive disappointment right now. Jayce Tingler, who reportedly was the final say behind the move, was looking for a spark, something that would ignite better performances from his pitching staff. The Padres didn’t have many other options, as the trade deadline has passed and they don’t want to rush any of their top pitching prospects. This team is still going for it this year, even though things haven’t been great lately. Larry Rothschild was canned in an effort to get some of that bad juju and bad game-planning out of the clubhouse, all in the nick of time.

He will be replaced by Ben Fritz for the rest of 2021, the bullpen coach. We’ll see if it works.